Ian Price opened the door to the waiting room and saw he was the only one there. Good. That was better than sitting with a bunch of strangers that were in need of Dr. Cameron Mason’s services.
He didn’t need them.
He was fine.
It was mandated. He’d get his release signed, and he’d wait until the investigation was done, then he’d return to normal. Return to work. As if nothing happened a few weeks ago.
No concussion. No partner that was home trying to recover and no dead teen haunting his dreams.
He’d be back to the way things were. He’d make sure of it.
There were magazines on the oak table in front of him. Time. Vanity Fair. Sports Illustrated. He didn’t pick up one of them.
He wasn’t here to stay. He didn’t want to get cozy with a read; he just wanted this over with.
Dr. Mason was probably some old balding fat man that was going to talk to him in a quiet voice, ask him about his inner feelings. If his parents ever raised their voices to him or swatted him on the ass. The answer would be yes. And he turned out just fine because of it. Matter of fact he and his parents had a mighty fine relationship to this day.
Another ten minutes went by while he looked around the quiet office. If the watercolors hanging and the flowers in the crystal vase were supposed to be calming, they weren’t cutting it. Not that he’d let anyone know he was anything but calm, cool and collected even in the Sahara Desert at midday.
Nerves of steel. That was him. Always.
The door he’d entered beeped, then opened and he glanced back, only to see the receptionist still standing there, annoyingly popping her cherry-scented gum like she’d been doing when he walked in the front door. Either she put a fresh piece in or that stuff had some extract in it because it made him want to gag thinking of sugary sweetness at a carnival.
“Dr. Mason will be just another minute. Is there anything I can get you before I leave for the day?”
The twenty-something was eying him more than he cared for. Not trying to figure out who he was. More like she was hungry. Looking for a mate. Or looking for a plaything. He wasn’t either.
He brushed off her flirting. He’d never see her again. He was going to have his one visit and be done. How hard would it be to get his release signed?
“I’m good,” he said, then watched as she wiggled her eyebrows at him one more time, grinned and left.
A minute, maybe two tops, and the office door opened and Dr. Mason came out.
No old fat balding man.
Not old. Not fat. Not a man.
A woman. A smoking hot one in a black pencil skirt hitting her knees, a white shirt buttoned to her neck and tucked in, but not hiding a thing from his imagination. Neither were the simple but still sexy black heels.
Dark straight hair falling over her shoulders, brown eyes assessing his, but not like her secretary. Unfortunately.
“Mr. Price?” she said, her voice cool and maybe a bit raspy. Nah, that was just in his imagination. She was holding her hand out and walking forward. “I’m Dr. Mason. Why don’t you come into my office?”
He shook her hand, brushing off the heat from contact, and followed her in, noting a leather couch on one wall and two chairs across from it. He sat down in one of the chairs. No way he was lying down. No reason.
She laughed, a low sound that shot more heat in places it had no business being.
“So why don’t you tell me why you’re here?” she asked.
“Don’t you know that?” Dr. Mason was contracted as the city’s head shrink.
“I do. I’m asking why you think you’re here.”
“So you can sign my release papers and send me back to work.” Might as well be honest. No use lying or prolonging anything. “I took all your tests the other day. I’m betting I did just fine on them.”
She pursed her lips. Full lips, minus any color or gloss. “I’ll do that in time. Until then, let’s just chat.”
Great. Chat. He hated chatting. Hated it even more when it was idle and that was all he was going to do. No mention of the test results, but he wasn’t worried.
“What do you want to know?” he asked.
She sat back in her chair, the pen she was holding now resting on her pad. “What would you like to tell me?”
“Not much,” he said, stretching his long legs out in front of him, then resting his hands on his belly.
She grinned at him, not easily put off. “How are you feeling?”
“I feel just fine,” he said.
“And your partner?”
“Mick is good. Lucky to be alive, but he’ll make it. He’ll make it to his retirement too.”
“Thanks to you,” she said. “How do you feel about the events that unfolded that day?”
Here we go. She wanted to talk about his feelings. “I feel just fine,” he repeated. “I did what needed to be done.”
She nodded, then picked up her pen and wrote something down. Wonderful. Just wonderful. She was taking notes now. “Aren’t you going to ask me about my childhood?”
“Do you want to talk about your childhood?” she asked, frowning at him.
What was wrong with him? He just didn’t want to talk about the night of the incident. Anything but. “Not really.”
“Then why did you bring it up?”
“Don’t all shrinks want to dig into their patient’s past? See if maybe they were abused. If something set them off. I’ll tell you right now there’s nothing. My mother spanked me a few times, then cried harder than I did. My father yelled at me too, then I yelled back and we laughed about it then and still do now. I’ve got a great relationship with them and they’d tell you the same.”
“Did you practice that speech before you came here?”
He had, but he wouldn’t admit it. “It’s the truth.”
“I actually believe you.”
“So we’re good then. You can sign my release and I’ll be set once the investigation is done?”
“I was told the investigation could take up to another week or longer. They’ll have my full evaluation by then. No worries.”
He wanted to grind his teeth but decided that would probably be a mark against him. Something more she’d want to talk about.
“Well then, if we’re done today,” he said, moving to stand up.
“That’s fine. I was running late and have had a long day myself. We can walk out together if you’d like,” she said.
He wanted to say no, but that’d be rude and he was probably rude enough as it was. No reason to get her on his bad side. Not until she signed that stupid release. “You’re going to make me come back, aren’t you?”
She smiled at him. “Of course.”
He wanted to leave but didn’t. She walked behind her desk and typed a few things on her computer. “Since my secretary has left for the day, I’ll just schedule your next appointment. How about two days from now, same time? Last appointment of the day?”
“That’s fine,” he said. Not like he had much going on. The sooner he could get this over with the sooner he could move on.
“Well then, you can walk me to my car,” she said, grabbing her purse, walking out the door and flashing her keycard to open the inner waiting room to get to the receptionist area. She liked the security here and how she could lock herself and clients in from the front waiting room for privacy if needed.
Cam was trying not to laugh. Detective Price absolutely did not want to be in her office. It was not the first time she’d dealt with a stubborn officer. One that thought he was fine. That figured she’d just sign his release and he’d be done.
Sometimes she’d meet with them a few times, make her recommendation based on their work history and current mental state, and they’d be done. Others took longer.
She was thinking Ian’s would be pretty simple. He’d passed all his tests with flying colors. But no one got a release on one visit from her. Especially when they didn’t want to talk about what actually happened. So until he at least acknowledged more than his partner was lucky to be alive that night, he’d have to come back.
“Do you always leave alone?” he asked her when she turned to lock up the office door.
“Normally. My secretary never wants to stay a minute past five. Guess she has an active social life that is more important than work. Tonight it’s a softball league she’s in. Said she was the starting pitcher and had to get there early to warm up. Something along those lines.”
Good staff was hard to come by. Tiffany had been employed for a few months now. She did her job well when she was there and there wasn’t much more Cam could ask for at this point. It was better than the last three secretaries she’d had.
Ian snorted. “I got that impression.”
“Did she hit on you?” Cam asked, trying to hide her annoyance. She’d outgrown the days of rebelling against any authority by the time she was twenty. Tiffany was years behind, it seemed.
“Does it matter? I’m not interested either way.”
“It wouldn’t be the first time she’s hit on one of my patients. Most are either in situations like yourself, short-term looking for a release, court-appointed assessments for trial, or…high end.”
“Not a lot of privacy for high end in here.”
“Actually you’re wrong. Because there are so many businesses in this complex, it’s hard for anyone to know why someone would be entering unless they were followed to their destination.”
Which was exactly why she’d chosen this location. She was on the third floor with five other businesses. There were two floors above her too. Clients could easily find another reason why they were in the building if they wanted to and most did. Most doubled up on appointments and saw someone before or after her, covering their tracks.
“Whatever makes people feel good.”
She turned and looked at him in the elevator. Really looked at his features. Dark hair, dark eyes, a few days’ growth of beard. Not messy, not lazy, just…manly. It seemed to fit his personality.
“That is part of my job. To help people. To make them feel better.”
“Does everyone feel better when they leave your office?”
“Not always. Not everyone can be helped. I understand that. Do you?”
“What? Feel better? I thought our session was over with?” he said, lifting an eyebrow.
He was good. “It is. Just having a conversation.”
“Elevator conversation is normally things like ‘What do you think about this weather? Did you catch the game last night?’”
She liked his personality. Keeping just enough of himself back, but not so much that you wondered what was going on. A secret bad boy. Nothing wrong with that and though she was annoyed with Tiffany, she could appreciate the need to take a risk and see where she’d end up. “I can catch the weather on the news like most people. And I don’t have time for sports.”
He laughed at her. “Good point.”
They rode down in silence now, then headed out to the parking lot. “I’ll see you in a couple of days,” she said. He nodded and walked in the other direction. She turned toward her car. “Shit!”
He was back at her side fast. “Well now, Doctor, is that any way to talk?”
It was wrong, she knew it, but she couldn’t stop it. All of those years of control flew out the window just now. Right in front of her. Her brand new Mercedes that she’d had all of three weeks had two tires slit.
“Sorry. I think that warranted it,” she said with a nod toward the tires.
“Guess you don’t make everyone feel good after all.”